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January 31, 2005

Success, and a Rebuke

The elections in Iraq have taken place and are a resounding success. The terrorists tried hard to stop them and failed. Democracy won this round. The Iraqis won.

We should be happy with our achievement. It is a rebuke to the naysayers, to the gloom-and-doom crowd, to those who say that our efforts are always doomed, to those who say that all wars are another Vietnam.

Not Because they are Easy....

We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

John F Kennedy
Sept 12, 1962

This is the spirit of America. This is the "can do" spirit that made America Great. These are the words that we used to live by. Most of our country still lives by them.

The space race may have been the subject of President Kennedy's words, but it summarized the attitude of Americans back then. Yes going to the moon was largely a technical challenge, and is vastly different than that of spreading democracy. Yes we were chastened by Vietnam. But we have overcome more than technical challenges in our history.

There are those, whoever, who believe that we cannot succeed. Whether it is the environment, civil rights, the economy, a proposed military venture, or the idea of spreading democracy, all is gloom and doom. Our planet is polluted to the point where only radical international treaties will save us. Jim Crow may return at any minute. Everyone lives in fear of becoming homeless. All wars will become another Vietnam. Attempts to encourage the spread of democracy will only make things worse. Only by listening to the wise Europeans and UN bureaucrats can we save ourselves.

We will fail in Iraq only if we want to fail. Only if we loose our nerve will the terrorists succeed.

The Iraqis

Check out Friends of Democracy, a new website dedicated to providing "Ground-level election news from the people of Iraq."

Mohammed of Iraq the Model rebuked the terrorists yesterday

The tyrants nightmare is becoming reality, now they will have to deal with the scariest word in their dictionaries; THE PEOPLE'S CHOICE.
The terrorists have challenged the bravery of the Iraqi people but they messed with the wrong people. The people have accepted the challenge; democracy and elections are not a luxury for Iraqis, it's an issue of life or death. And the terror brutal campaign has only made the people more determined to go on with the change.
Alaa bows in respect to Iraqis who went to the polls despite threats. He also wishes condolences to the American people for the loss of many of our soldiers.

Hammorabi is so excited it seems that nearly every sentence on his blog ends in an exclamation point. Can't say I blame him.

The Family in Baghdad, however, looks at the glass as half-full. No, they see it has almost empty. Note that they do not allow comments on their blog.

Media Coverage

We had Fox News on in the background at work yesterday, and I didn't get a chance to see how their coverage differed from that of other networks. Kat does a nice job of summarizing the MSM coverage on her blog, so check that out.

Sure, one can say that they're cheerleaders on Fox. And they are. But so what? And, more to the point, why exactly is that a bad thing? There is a time to be critical and a time to celebrate success. Their coverage does tell both sides, contrary to what their critics would have you believe. The difference is that they do not give the gloom-and-doom crowd more than is their due.

The Missing

Where is that great defender of human rights, Jimmy Carter? He who is famous for monitoring elections to ensure that they are fair? Check the Middle East section of the Carter Center's website and you'll find that they are doing nothing in Iraq. Iraq is conspicuously absent from their Democracy Program, also.

For that matter, where are the "human shields" that were going to protect the Iraqi people from U.S. bombing during the early days of the Iraq War? One of their websites is inactive. On another the latest update was made on August 27, 2003. Despite a few taunts by bloggers, I have not seen any take up the challenge to protect the polling places. A few have admitted they were wrong, but most are simply angry that we have succeeded.

The Politics

Yesterday was a victory for President Bush and his supporters, plain and simple. We may as well revel in our success, for we will certainly face difficult days ahead.

Some of the Democrats still don't get it. First up is John Kerry;

"It is hard to say that something is legitimate when whole portions of the country can't vote and doesn't vote,"

"If we do a better job of training; if the training is accelerated and other countries come to the table in the effort to provide and help provide long term security, yes we can begin to reduce American troops. But those pre-conditions and changing the life of the Iraqis on a day-to-day basis has not happened,"
Ted Kennedy offered an equally tempered view
While the elections are a step forward, they are not a cure for the growing violence and resentment of the perception of an American occupation ... I continue to believe that the best way to demonstrate to the Iraqi people that we have no long-term designs on their country is for the administration to withdraw some troops now and to begin to negotiate a phase-down of our long-term military presence.
You can be sure that Hillary Clinton is laughing very hard at these comments. She has been smart enough to keep quiet lately and let these other Democrats sink themselves. Her plan it to emerge like the Phoenix from the ashes and rescue her party from their self-destruction.

The Future

No, we have not won yet. Yes, much more remains to be done. No, democracy is not yet secure in Iraq and we may still fail. Yes, there will be much more fighting before the insurgent terrorists are defeated. Yes, there will be setbacks. And yes, the final form of Iraqi democracy may not be totally in accord with our wishes.

Happy now, naysayers?

We know all of these things. We know that there are many challenges ahead of us. The difference between you and us is that we take heed of Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson's advice;

Never take council of your fears.
As I have explained before, the key word is not "fears" but "council." Only a fool would disregard the very real dangers we face in Iraq. Jackson meant that you must not allow fear of these dangers to paralyze your thinking. President Kennedy understood this. Most Americans understand it. And yesterday proved that most Iraqis do, too.

Posted by Tom at 9:46 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 28, 2005

Auschwitz and the Wansee Conference

There are many names and words in our language that conjur up horror and revulsion, and sadness. But there is one among them that stands out in it's ability to summarize in one world all that can go wrong with the human race. All that can happen when we forget god and let evil rule us. What can happen when a nation goes mad and let's the worst sort of people become it's leaders.

Auschwitz

This is the week to remember the Wansee Conference and the liberation of Auschwitz. As such, I'm going to link to IsraPundit, where you need to go to read the complete story. Here is part of the story:

The Holocaust, symbolized by Auschwitz, the worst of the death camps, occurred in the wake of consistent, systematic, unrelenting anti-Jewish propaganda campaigns. As a result, the elimination of the Jews from German society was accepted as axiomatic, leaving open only two questions: when and how.

As Germany expanded its domination and occupation of Austria, Czechoslovakia, France, the Low Countries, Yugoslavia, Poland, parts of the USSR, Greece, Romania, Hungary, Italy and others countries, the way was open for Hitler to realize his well-publicized plan of destroying the Jewish people.

After experimentation, the use of Zyklon B on unsuspecting victim was adopted by the Nazis as the means of choice, and Auschwitz was selected as the main factory of death (more accurately, one should refer to the “Auschwitz-Birkenau complex”). The green light for mass annihilation was given at the Wannsee Conference, January 20, 1942.

The Wannsee Conference formalized "the final solution" - the plan to transport Europe's Jews to eastern labour and death camps. Ever efficient and bureaucratic, the Nazi kept a record of the meeting, which were discovered in 1947 in the files of the German Foreign Office. The record represents a summary made by Adolf Eichmann at the time, even though they are sometime referred to as "minutes".

Several of the Conference participants survived the war to be convicted at Nuremberg. One notorious participant, Adolf Eichmann, was tried and convicted in Jerusalem, and executed in 1962 in Ramlah prison.

The mass gassings of Europe's took place in Auschwitz between 1942 and the end of 1944, when the Nazis retreated before the advancing Red Army. Jews were transported to Auschwitz from all over Nazi-occupied or Nazi-dominated Europe and most were slaughtered in Auschwitz upon arrival, sometimes as many as 12,000 in one day. Some victims were selected for slave labour or “medical” experimentation before they were murdered or allowed to die. All were subject to brutal treatment.

n all, between three and four million people, mostly Jews, but also Poles and Red Army POWs, were slaughtered in Auschwitz alone (though some authors put the number at 1.3 million). Other death camps were located at Sobibor, Chelmno, Belzec (Belzek), Majdanek and Treblinka. Adding the toll of these and other camps, as well as the mass executions and the starvation im the Ghettos, six million Jews, men, women, the elderly and children lost their lives as a consequence of the Nazi atrocities.

Auschwitz was liberated by the Red Army on 27 January 1945, sixty years ago, after most of the prisoners were forced into a Death March westwards. The Red Army found in Auschwitz about 7,600 survivors, but not all could be saved.

For a long time, the Allies were well aware of the mass murder, but deliberately refused to bomb the camp or the railways leading to it. Ironically, during the Polish uprising, the Allies had no hesitation in flying aid to Warsaw, sometimes flying right over Auschwitz.

There are troubling parallels between the systematic vilification of Jews before the Holocaust and the current vilification of the Jewish people and Israel. Suffice it to note the annual flood of anti-Israel resolutions at the UN; or the public opinion polls taken in Europe, which single out Israel as a danger to world peace; or the divestment campaigns being waged in the US against Israel; or the attempts to delegitimize Israel’s very existence. The complicity of the Allies in WW II is mirrored by the support the PLO has been receiving from Europe, China and Russia to this very day.

If remembering Auschwitz should teach us anything, it is that we must all support Israel and the Jewish people against the vilification and the complicity we are witnessing, knowing where it inevitably leads.

Never forget.

This post is part of a "blogburst" set up by IsraPundit, a site that maintains perfect moral clarity on issues regarding Israel. You can find a complete list of participating sites here.

Posted by Tom at 9:54 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Two More Reasons to Dump the UN

What a day we have here. Not one but two new reasons why the United Nations is not only utterly useless but downright harmful. Oh, and the French are behind one of them.

France, you see, has called for a $10 billion global tax to help fight AIDS. World leaders are "mulling" the proposal. Sadly, Tony Blair seems to support the idea. If Blair has his way, the proposal will be discussed when G8 finance ministers meet next week in London.

To be sure, the chance of such a proposal being implemented is slim to none. And the UN is not directly involved in this proposal. But these things can take on a life of their own unless it is immediately squashed. Fortunately, the Bush Administration "... not inclined to support international taxation schemes," Good. I bring the UN into this because they would undoubtebly be the organization to implement such a scheme.

The irony is that, to it's credit, George Bush has done an awfully lot to combat AIDS, especially in Africa.

The Fox Guarding the Henhouse

Adding to the absurdity above, we have this;

Cuba, Zimbabwe and Saudi Arabia have been elected to a five-member panel that will decide which complaints are heard by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights at its annual meeting in Geneva this spring.

U.S. and U.N. officials said the Working Group on Situations, which also includes Hungary and the Netherlands, will meet next month to review more than 80 complaints against dozens of countries — including the United States.

The presence in the group of what the West considers to be three of the world's worst human rights abusers has angered the Bush administration, but officials said there was little that they could have done to prevent it.
You just can't make this stuff up. It goes to the heart of the problem with the UN; it is an amoral institution. Nations are simply "member states" and all are equal. The UN is sadly lacking in moral clarity.

Posted by Tom at 9:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

1970's Redux?

In the spirit of detente the United States largely stopped building nuclear delivery systems in the 1970's. The Soviet Union, seeing detente in a different light, continued it's buildup. The trend was finally reversed by Ronald Reagan. Are we seeing the same thing today? Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough report this morning on the status of some of the other nuclear powers;

We obtained a copy of the latest report by the National Air and Space Intelligence Center on ballistic and cruise missile threats. The report concludes that the missile threat is growing "in number and variety."

"The availability of weapons of mass destruction for use on ballistic missiles vastly increases the significance of this threat," the report states.

The report notes that Russia, despite U.S. aid to reduce its nuclear arsenals, has or is building four new types of ICBMs, including 30 SS-27s that are deployed with "countermeasures to ballistic missile defense systems."

Another new ICBM is in the works that will be deployed in both silos and road-mobile launchers, the report said.

Russia's other new long-range missiles include two new submarine-launched ballistic missiles known as the SS-N-23 Sineva and the Bulava-30, which will be deployed in a new missile submarine known as the Dolgoruky class.

The report also notes that China is building up its long-range missile forces with two new ICBMs, the 4,500-mile range DF-31 and the 7,000-mile range DF-31A. "The number of warheads on Chinese ICBMs capable of threatening the United States is expected to expand to 75 to 100 over the next 15 years," the report said.
The report also warns that work on North Korea's ICBM, the Taepo-Dong-2, is continuing, and the missile "may be exported to other countries in the future."

Iran's missile program was described in the report as "ambitious" and includes the 800-mile range Shahab-3 and plans for two longer-range missiles, the Shahab-4 and Shahab-5. "Iran could have an ICBM capable of reaching the United States before 2015," the report said.

As for land-attack cruise missiles, the report states that the threat is growing, with at least nine nations building the ground-hugging, hard-to-detect systems.

Both China and Russia are building new cruise missiles that can be armed with nuclear or conventional warheads. "The majority of new [land-attack cruise missiles] will be very accurate, conventionally armed and available for export," the report said. "U.S. defense systems could be severely stressed by low-flying, stealthy cruise missiles that can simultaneously attack a target from several different directions."


The answer however, should be different this time. In the 1980's we responded by building the MX, B-1b, and adding the D-5 missile to the Navy's Trident boomers. We also initiated the Strategic Devense Initiative. It was SDI that truely scared the Soviets, and was one of the primary factors that led to their demise. This time we need not make significant alterations to our nuclear forces.

Russia is the hardest of all to deal with. The good news is that unless they undergo a significant shift they are not a threat to us anymore. Weapons by themselves are not a threat, it is the intention to use them against us that becomes threatening. We have some economic leverage with Russia, and we should use what we have.

I see it as unlikely that China will use their weapons against our mainland no matter what happens with regard to Taiwan. They might use them against our forces in the Pacific region if we get into a no-holds barred shooting match with them over the island republic. Here, missile defense will be of some, though limited, use. The Chinese can simply overwhelm any defense we currently have planned. China plans on using their weapons primarily as an intimidation factor. They want hegemony in their region of the world and see nuclear weapons as one means of achieving it. To counter them we must 1) make sure Taiwan is properly armed, 2) maintain good diplomatic/military relations with our friends in the region, and 3) increase our own military (primarily naval) strength in the region, something that the Bush administration unfortunately does not seem inclined to do.

The "rogue nations" require yet another answer. With them, we should concentrate on these three efforts; 1) nonproliferation, 2) missile defense, and 3) Preemption when all else fails.

Although nonproliferation efforts have at best a spotty track record, negotiations, if coupled with strong economic sanctions and a credible military threat, can have at least a delaying effect.

Missile defense will never be 100% effective, but it need not be to be effective. All we have to do is to stop a few missiles fired by a madman, who may not be disuaded by traditional deterrance.

Either way, the end of a bipolar world significantly complicates our choices.

Posted by Tom at 9:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Hero of Chappaquiddick

It's hard to know sometimes if Ted Kennedy is simply wrong or just plain nuts. Maybe he's in competition with Al Gore to see who can give the most bombastic, firebreathing, loudmouth speech. Given that Mr Gore has, thankfully, faded from the scene, we have to give the award to the hero of Chappaquiddick. Here's his latest;

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy yesterday said U.S. troops, instead of defeating the insurgency in Iraq, are spawning it, and he called for immediate withdrawal of 12,000 troops after this weekend's election and a complete pullout by early next year.
This sort of thinking is so wrongheaded it's hard to know where to begin. The folly of publishing a timetable so the insurgents would know all they had to do was lay low for awhile, the unfortunate fact that the legitimate Iraqi government cannot adequately defend itself yet, that the insurgents have utterly failed in their objectives while we are succeeding, seem to escape his notice.

Thankfully most other Democrats have retained their sanity and distanced themselves from him. Senator Biden has even called for more U.S. troops in Iraq.

Yes, I know, there is a half-way legitimate argument that the presence of our troops fuels the insurgency. But even this misses the point. What the terrorist insurgents are really fighting against is the establishment of a democracy, and a somewhat secular one at that, in the Middle East. They'd be fighing even if we were to leave tomorrow.

And one may say that the Iraqis need to be put on notice that they need to defend themselves. But this, too, misses the point. The Iraqis will be more motivated to defend themselves from the terrorists when they have something to defend, and that something will be a government that they themselves have elected.

Last week I asked if Brent Scowcroft and Zbignew Brzezinski would be available to pick up Iraqi boat people if we abandoned their cause. It's time to ask Ted Kennedy the same question.

Posted by Tom at 8:57 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 26, 2005

The Case for Democracy

Last night I finished Natan Sharansky's new book The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror. He makes a powerful case.

I posted part one of my take on his theories on my other blog site here. What follows is part II and my own thoughts on the matter.

President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have both read the book, and the President, at least, is powerfully influenced. His recent inaugural address reflected many of Sharansky's ideas about the power of freedom and democracy to change the world. The President's speech was so good and right that I found myself cheering every part of it. One editorialist I read today said it was the type of speech that makes you want to underline every sentence. Fellow blogger Mark tried to excerpt it, then gave up and posted the whole thing.

If the first part of the book is about the successfulness of Helsinki and Jackson-Vanik in bringing about an end to the Soviet Union, the second is about the failure brought about by Oslo due to the lack of moral clarity among both Israelis and Americans.

The key to Sharansky's formula for success is simple:

When freedom's skeptics argue today that freedom cannot be "imposed" from the outside, or that the freed world has no role to play in spreading democracy around the world, I cannot but be amazed. Less than one generation has passed since the West found the Achilles heel of the Soviet Union by pursuing an activist policy that linked the rights of the Soviet people to the USSR's international standing. The same formula will work again today.
What we need to do, he says, is link our foreign policy toward those regimes to how they treat their own people.

Regarding the Soviet Union, the formula had three components, he says:

  1. People inside who yearned to be free
  2. Leaders outside who believed they could be, and
  3. Policies that linked the free world's relations with the USSR to the Soviet regimes treatment of it's own people.
The key to peace between Israelis and Palestinians, he says, is the application of these principles. In short, we must require the Palestinians to reform themselves, for peace with them as they are now is simply not possible. The utter failure of the Oslo Accords to lead to peace has everything to do with the failure of this to happen, and nothing to do with "building trust" or any such nonsense.

The problem with Oslo, Sharansky says was that

Whereas the Helsinki agreements forged a direct link between human rights and East-West relations, the Oslo accords failed to establish any connection between human rights and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Worse, as would later become clear in word and deed, Oslo's architects actually believed that such a link would be detrimental to the interests of both parties.
The continued refusal of Israeli and American administrations to require much in the way of reform by the Palestinians doomed the process, Sharansky says.

As part of an ongoing moral confusion, many speak of a "cycle of violence" among the Israelis and Palestinians. But this is inaccurate. As Sharansky points out, the suicide bombers continued their bloody work regardless of whether the Israeli military responded or not.

One of the problems in trying to make peace with dictators is that they really do not think like us. This was illustrated beautifully in an anecdote that Sharansky related in the book. During negotiations at the Wye Plantation in 1998, the issue of car theft came up. Israelis were having their cars stolen in overwhelming numbers by Palestinians, who quickly took them to "chop shops" in Palestinian controlled areas.

During the meeting at Wye, we asked the Palestinians why they were not using their massive police force to stop the thefts. Predictably, they said that to address the issue they needed to be stronger, which would require more concessions from Israel.

Arafat sat silently, his eyes darting back and forth and his lower lip trembling. He was not involved in the conversation at all. "Is this the man that is running the Palestinian Authority?" I thought to myself. He seemed hardly capable of running anything.

Suddenly, Arafat jerked to attention and blurted out, "It's the settlers. It's the settlers who are stealing the cars, not our people." Arafat's remark was so absurd and childish that it was difficult for me not to burst out laughing. but the Palestinians were not amused. Suddenly, Arafat's ridiculous outburst changed the dynamic of the discussion. the Palestinian delegation immediately went from being on the defensive to hurling charges at Israel.

This is the sort of doublethink when you deal with dictators. There was an incident some years ago in which Arafat got into a heated dispute with his security chief. Arafat pulled a pistol on him and threatened him with it in a meeting with his top aides. This is not the sort of person with whom you can make peace.

Unfortunately, we're not going to get any help in spreading democracy from the major human rights groups. Amnesty International's own website proclaims that

AI is independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest or religion. It does not support or oppose any government or political system, nor does it support or oppose the views of the victims whose rights it seeks to protect. It is concerned solely with the impartial protection of human rights.
Can they really mean this? I understand that they do not wish to get distracted by political battles, but surely this is going too far. As Sharansky says when confronted by Amnesty officials over this, "how can a human rights organization be impartial about political systems that are inherently hostile to human rights?" Such is the moral confusion of our day.

The United States and the Middle East

President Bush gave a great inaugural speech. It remains to be seen whether we will carry through on its promise. Sharansky's dealings with our State Department are not encouraging. Most, but not all, officials at State are skeptical about democratic reform, and prefer the illusion of "stability." It is my hope that Condoleezza Rice will be able to reform their attitudes to where they are in line with the President's.

We've propped up dictatorships in the Middle East for too long. During the Cold War we believed, sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly, that "strongmen" were better than the communist alternative. Once the Soviet Union collapsed, they were forced to reform and become democracies; think South Korea and Taiwan. The time has come for us to stop supporting the Saudi regime, for example, and put them on notice.

It has been pointed out by many that it is not by accident that we are hated in those parts of the world where we do prop up these dictatorships, yet are well-liked by the people in places like Iran, where we oppose the government. Perhaps we underestimated the task of bringing democracy to Iraq, and the experiment may yet fail. But it remains the best hope for them, and for us, and so we must give it our all.

Posted by Tom at 11:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Democratic Divisions

Condoleeza Rice was confirmed by the Senate today 85-13. While her confirmation was never in doubt, it was the largest number of "no" votes against any secretary of state nominee since 1925. What gives?

If you listen to the Democrats, it is because she is unqualified. No, worse, she's a liar. We know this because the Senator Kennedy, who of course has told the whole unvarnished truth about Chappaquiddick, says that she provided "false reasons" to go to war against Iraq. Sen Robert "KKK" Byrd, who fancies himself a modern-day Cicero, took the opportunity to denounce the war as unconstitutional. Sen Dick Durbin said that in contrast to Rice, Powell had been the "voice of moderation", implying without saying that Rice is just one of those rabid war-loving right wingers. Durbin also said that "In the end, I could not excuse Dr Rice's repeated misstatements". Sen Jack Reed trotted out the old saw that Rice merely reinforces Bush's views once he has made them.

First, lets make the seemingly obvious point that everyone thought that Saddam had stockpiles of WMD, and that if you truely believe one thing and another turns out to be the truth, this does not make you a liar but merely wrong.

Second, we'll point out the evolution in left-wing criticism of the President; at first they said that he was the dummy, easily led around by his advisors, now they're saying that his advisors are led around by him. Uh, which is it, guys?

More seriously, what is with the Democrats? Are we actually to believe that Dr Rice is less qualified than, say, Madeline Albright? Or Warren Christopher? For that matter, what about Cyrus Vance, or, for you history buffs, one of the oddest nominees of all time, William Jennings Bryan?

While Barbara Boxer led the charge against Dr Rice, fellow California Democrat Dianne Feinstein defended her. Other Democrats such as Joe Leiberman also came to her aide.

It seems to me that the Democrats are 1) increasingly defined by the far-left wing, 2) divided and disorganized, and 3) unable to choose their battles wisely.

As for the first, they are increasingly defined by their far-left wing. If you ask most Democrats or standard liberals, they will point out that most of their members of congress are "moderate" on this or that issue. They'll say that most senators voted for Dr Rice, support the military, etc. This misses the point. The GOP 1992 national convention was defined by Pat Buchanan's firebreathing speech, which was portrayed as "extremist". Whether it was or not is not relevant. The point is that he became the public face of the Republican party, and it hurt them severely. Likewise today for the Democrats, they are perceived as the party of the hollywood-loony left.

The Democrats seem to have no strategy now at all. Their leadership should have been able to stop this specatacle. As it is now, they are going down the unproductive road that Tom Daschle led them.

There is no good reason to seriously oppose a nomination that is going to happen anyway. When in the minority you need to choose your battles wisely, and fight only those you have a chance of winning. To fight everything that comes up is unwise. While doing so may make you feel good, and gains you points with your own die-hards, it hurts you with the moderate voters. They see you as being unnecessarily divisive and extreme. Entire parties get tainted by the actions of a few.

The Democrats are still tainted by the ways of Tom Daschle.

Posted by Tom at 5:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Confirmed Republicans

My cats, that is. They're confirmed Republicans.

You see, this weeks Homespun Bloggers Symposium question is a bit offbeat, which is a good thing as it reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously. The question comes courtesy of Paulie, of The Commons at Paulie World.

"I've notice that a seemingly large proportion of the blogosphere is composed of "cat bloggers." What are the political parties your cats belong to, and how did you derive their determination? Please reply for each cat, with examples. If you do not own a cat, could you post on how you think cats determine their political affiliations (purely speculative, I know), or why cat owners are such nuts for their cats?

The Redhunter is a confirmed "cat person". I own two mixed-breed cats, one male one female, who are 10 and 11 years old respectively. Both properly "fixed", of course.

I assure you that they are both definately Republican.

And Paulie, with all due respect, there is nothing speculative about a cat's political affiliation; they're all Republicans. When owned by Democrats they simply keep it a secret.

Athena is the female. She is marked by dark-grey and white patches. Of the two she is the most conservative politically. In fact, I think that although not a mother herself she is secretly a member of the "Security Moms". Always alert to potential danger, she is the first to sense potential danger. Any strange sound, including things I certainly cannot hear, and she jumps up like a flash and goes on the alert; ears perked, eyes searching.

Bengal, as in Bengal Tiger, is an orange tabby cat. Like his feline companion, he is ever alert to newcomers. His role is to sit in the front window and watch for the arrival of a car. Upon seeing someone come to the driveway, he rushes downstairs to meet them, or more properly, check them out. If the visitor is acceptable, he knows he has a new friend. However, if the visitor does not pass, then his owner knows that the visitor may be unsuitable as a friend for him also.

Both cats share the job of making sure that all packages and purchases are safe. All new arrivals, whether packages through the mail or items purchased at the store are given a thorough inspection. Only when both have given their approval (signaled by a sudden attitude of indifference to the aforementioned package) can their owner be certain that there are no potential threats.

So our living arrangements are mutually beneficial. The cats provide security monitoring, and display a love for their person* with loud purring. I provide food, shelter, medical attention, and meet their need for excitement by trailing a string around the house etc. Neither party gets or demands something for nothing; the true definition of conservative Republican!

* As every cat owner knows, nobody owns a cat.

And as for you cat haters;

"People who hate cats will come back as mice in their next life"

Faith Resnick

Update

Although John McCaslin of the Washington Times agrees with me that cats are Republicans, Times reader Seamus Finbar begs to disagree;

"Frequently I consult my 165 pound Rottweiler-Mastiff when I am stumped in the universal language mathematics. His name is Max," says the physicist.

"Naturally Max is a Republican," he continues. "Even his eyes are reddish, not blueish. They reflect the color in each state of our republic last Election Day. Max snarled when he read the title of your [column]: 'Left-leaning dogs.' "

As for cats, Mr. Finbar educates: "Cats live within the boundary conditions of their own solipsistic little world; are unstable and unpredictable even today. They are loyal only to those who feed them and stroke their fur. Seems that cats are Democrats to me."
Well, my cats hissed when I read that to them. So there.

Posted by Tom at 11:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 25, 2005

Just War Theory - Comparative Justice

Comparative Justice is the next test that must be met as part of Just War Theory in order for a war to be considered legitimate. So far this is what we have covered in my series:

Introduction to Just War Theory
I. Recourse to War - jus ad bellum

  1. Just Cause
  2. Competent Authority
  3. Comparative Justice
  4. Right Intention
  5. Last Resort
  6. Probability of Success
  7. Proportionality

II. Conduct in War - jus in bello
  1. Discrimination
  2. Proportionality

Comparative Justice is the concept that while neither side in a conflict is perfect, one is more in the right, and is more just than the other. Is the justice of our cause greater than theirs? Also, are the rights and values at state serious enough to justify war? When considering whether it is just for the United States to go to war against a perceived threat, the question is not whether we are perfect; it is whether we are more in the right than they are.

On the one hand, we must reject the moral relevatists who tell us "one person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter." On the other, we must be careful not to claim that we are certain that "God is on our side." Few states or causes have absolute justice on their side. However, in most cases one is more in the right than the other.

That this seems obvious is not borne out by everyday observations. During the Cold War there were those who denied that the United States had the right to defend it or it's allies against the Soviet Union due to the existence of this or that injustice within the United States. And to be sure, many of the things the critics pointed to were in need of serious attention, lack of civil rights for blacks primary among them. Today we see those on the left for whom any wrong on our side delegitimizes our entire War on Terror, and primarily the War in Iraq. This has been amply documented elsewhere, so there is no need for a recitiation of the facts here.

But those who insist on perfection, or absolute justice, are really seeking an impossible utopia. While the quest for utopia may seem a harmless fallacy to some, the reality is that in some cases it has led to the worst of totalitarianism the world has every seen. Further, Christianity, upon which Just War Theory is based, teaches that perfection on earth is an impossibility.

Thus those who insist on purity on our side are in error. This is, of course, not to say that no criticism of the United States or our allies is permissible. The question is whether that criticism is meant to help us win the war, or simply to bash and denounce the United States and our allies.

The second part of Comparative Justice is that it limits the means that can be employed to fight the war. The essential point is that the extent to which we may defend ourselves against an enemy is limed by the comparative justice between them and us. If there is no difference between them and us, we would be unjust in using force. (Note: war fighting is more properly the subject of jus in bello and will be discussed at length in part II)

During the Cold War a dangerous lack of moral clarity was in evidence in some intellectual circles. Terms like "the two superpowers" or "superpower rivalry" revealed a type of thinking in which the US and USSR were merely two chessplayers on the board of international politics. The reality was that the Soviet Communists truly wanted to rule the world, and put it under the thumb of a 1984-style regime. We had no desire to rule the world, but didn't want them to either. We were a democracy, and they were a totalitarian regime. That we were hardly perfect detracted not at all from the rightness of our cause.

Today we see moral equivalence in the War on Terror, and particularly with regard to the War in Iraq. Inanities such as "Stop the War" and "all killing is wrong" imply that we are in pursuit of an evil imperialistic agenda, and thus (at best) both sides are at fault. At worst, it is our entire fault because we did not sit back passively after 9/11 and Saddam's violations and agree to let everything be mediated by the United Nations.

We also see moral equivalence in Israel's war against Palestinian terror. The insistence among the elites in the media to decry the "cycle of violence" would be laughable were it not so tragic. Of course, there is no "cycle"; the terrorists attack regardless of what Israel does. The desire to be "evenhanded" and to urge "both sides to stop the violence" is unfortunately an attitude that American administrations have adopted at least since the Carter presidency.

Prelude to War

With regard to al Qaeda, the question is not whether we have done anything wrong in the Middle East, such as support dictators in Saudi Arabia, but whether their version of justice was better or worse than ours. And I think it clear that there has not been such a clear-cut case of who is right and who is wrong since the Second World War. Al Qaeda attacked us numerous times in the 1990's before they destroyed World Trade Center. There is much evidence to suggest that they would do so again. Further, if Osama bin Laden were able to impliment his vision of the Caliphate in the Middle East, we would see the rise of a regime comparable to Hitler's Germany or Stalin's Soviet Union.

With regard to the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, the question was not whether the United States had done every single thing right. The question is whether we were more in the right than Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Saddam violated every single agreement he made after the Gulf War. Perhaps we should have done this or that differently in the UN Security Council. But it takes an act of moral blindness to believe that "we are no better than they are." I am not going to recite all of my reasons why I believe the War in Iraq is justified, for I have done that in an earlier post.

There is no doubt that United States soldiers, and apparently civilian contractors, committed crimes at Abu Ghraib. Saddam murdered hundreds of thousands and buried them in mass graves. We investigate and prosecute our own (sorry, lefties, there's no evidence Rumsfeld was involved). Saddam promoted criminals like "Chemical" Ali, and the terrorists in Iraq today plant their bombs without any regard for civilian casualties. We go to great extent to minimize civilian casualties, and the terrorists go to great extent to maximize civilian casualties. Yet one of our young Marines shoots a terrorist who was probably playing dead and we are savaged in the press. The lack of moral clarity in some quarters is nothing short of astounding.

Other Rogue Regimes

What does this portend for other regimes such as Iran, North Korea, Syria, and China? As I have said in other posts, it is possible that we might go to war with China over Taiwan. No doubt we will see much moral equivelance from our elites were this to occur.

It is clear to me that we pass the test of Comparative Justice with regard to all of these regimes.

Just because a state passes the test of Comparative Justice does not mean that it has carte blanche to do what it wishes. Readers of this series should know by now that all of the tests must be met and passed.

Just War Theory is, as the name implies, only concerned with regimes with which we might go to war. It is not concerned with our relations with distasteful regimes such as those in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, or Zimbabwe. I've made my thoughts clear on Saudi Arabia, for example, in other posts (here and here).

Next Time: Right Intention


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The Pentagon's Intelligence Branch

Marvin has an important post over on his blog in which he discusses the Pentagon's creation of a new intelligence arm, called the Strategic Support Branch. It's purpose is to rid the Pentagon's reliance on the CIA for "humint", or human intelligence. The Washington Post provides details:

The Strategic Support Branch was created to provide Rumsfeld with independent tools for the "full spectrum of humint operations," according to an internal account of its origin and mission. Human intelligence operations, a term used in counterpoint to technical means such as satellite photography, range from interrogation of prisoners and scouting of targets in wartime to the peacetime recruitment of foreign spies. A recent Pentagon memo states that recruited agents may include "notorious figures" whose links to the U.S. government would be embarrassing if disclosed.

Perhaps the most significant shift is the Defense Department's bid to conduct surreptitious missions, in friendly and unfriendly states, when conventional war is a distant or unlikely prospect -- activities that have traditionally been the province of the CIA's Directorate of Operations. Senior Rumsfeld advisers said those missions are central to what they called the department's predominant role in combating terrorist threats.

All of this makes sense to me. Fox News TV covered it quite extensively yesterday and few if any of the experts they interviewed had any problem with it. Given the CIA's abysmal record in recent decades in human intelligence, it is hardly surprising that Rumsfeld isn't about to wait for them to get their act together. We're in a war, and fast action is required.

Predictably, some Democrats are in a huff, Diane Feinstein in particular rushing to the cameras to express her "puzzlement" at the revalation of the secret unit. Democrat Rep Ellen Tausher "urged hearings."

However, as this Fox News story shows it appears that Congress was informed;

Pentagon officials told reporters, however, that the arrangement had been worked out in close coordination with the CIA and that appropriate congressional committees had been fully informed.

A senior military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said CIA director Porter Goss told him Monday that he had "no issue or questions or concerns" about the Pentagon arrangement.

Senator John Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Duncan Hunter, charman of the House Armed Services Committee, both expressed support of the Pentagon initiative.

That a few Democrats are upset is nothing to worry about. What is troubling, as Marvin pointed out on his blog, is the prospect that the creation of this branch will simply be portrayed in terms of "power politics" by the MSM. From what I can tell, the Pentagon is simply doing what is necessary in the wake of the CIA's failure.

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January 21, 2005

At the Inaugural Ceremonies

I volunteered for two events: A Celebration of Freedom which took place Wednesday from 4-6pm, and the Constitution Ball, which was Thursday night.

The Celebration of Freedom was on the Ellipse, which is the large lawn/park in front of the White House, inbetween it and the Washington Monument

The Constitution Ball was at the Hilton in downtown Washington DC.

Update

I've rearranged the photos so that they show up in chronological order, the opposite of how a blog usually works. So the first is at top, and goes down from there. I realize that the photos don't all show up right, for some reason gaps between posts are showing up. I'll work on it again and try to clean it up.

Update II

So as you've figured out by now I had a great time. One of the great things about living in the Washington DC area is that you get to do these things. I made the mistake of not participating in the past, and just decided this time I had to do something. Readers of this blog will remember that I worked as a volunteer on Frank Wolf's campaign, and that was a great experience. He was up against this liberal carpetbagger who decided to make an issue of Wolf's religion (Presbyterian, about as mainstream as you can get). We won and it felt good.

So it is with Bush's victory, too. In 2001 it was ok, we got the White House back, but the victory was way too close for comfort. And I harbored doubts about Bush (was he really a conservative?). All doubts are gone now and it is time to celebrate.

And celebrate we did. At the event on the ellipse the snow was worrysome at first (would anyone show?) but the volunteers were all good troopers and we hung in there several hours until the guests arrived. And when they did come, they came by the busfull.

The biggest thrill, of course, was when the President and Vice-President arrived with their wives.

Even though I was maybe 200 feet (I'm not good at distances, take a look at the photos yourself and be the judge) from the President and Vice-President at the two events, it was an amazing thrill to see them live. Even at a distance I could make them and their families out well. I had small binoculars at the event on the Ellipse which I used as long as I could. And I don't feel embarrassed at all to say that patriotic fervor was strong when, immediately after the President and VP spoke, we watched fireworks over the Washington Monument as they played John Philips Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever." Leftists, eat dirt!

The Constitution Ball was a lot of fun also. A lot warmer too. On the other hand, the ball did involve renting a tux, which while not terribly expensive isn't cheap either. I see it as my contribution to the cause. This way I'll be able to ignore the seemingly weekly mailing from the RNC asking for money for awhile without feeling guilty.

Was it just me, or did anyone else notice the amazing percentage of young people who are Bush supporters and who came to the inaugural events? I noticed this too at the Constitution Ball. I don't have the demographic trends in front of me, but from what I remember reading, if I was a liberal I'd be very worried.

More on the inaugural events are posted by the photos below. I took a lot of photos that I haven't posted (yet?), mainly because posting them increases loading time so much. Maybe I'll put a few more up, we'll see.

The Inaugural Address

I'm not going to say much about the address other than to say that I thought it great. Take a peak at what fellow bloggers Mark, Paulie, and Marvin had to say about the speach, as I largely concur with their thoughts.

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A Snowy Start

A Snowy Start Originally uploaded by Tom the Redhunter.

Here I am, on the Ellipse at about 1pm Wednesday, with the snow falling hard around me. The stage and backdrop can barely be seen in the background.

Fortunately the snow stopped shortly after this photo was taken.

I spent most of the day in and around one of the entrances where helping to take tickets and guide people through security

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The Vice-President

IM000030 Originally uploaded by Tom the Redhunter.
Vice-President Cheney spoke after the President. Like the President, he is a class act.

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The President and Vice-President Arrive!

At about 5:00 my duties were largely over and I went up to the general seating. The President and Vice-President each gave short speeches. Here is the President, as I photographed him on one of the large projection screens.

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President Bush

President Bush Originally uploaded by Tom the Redhunter.
Even on maximum telephoto you can barely make out the President. No matter, he gave an inspiring speech.

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Fireworks over the Washington Monument

A 180 degree view from where I was standing. The Washington Monument makes a wonderful backdrop for fireworks. At this point, the cold was completely forgotten.

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Fireworks over the White House

At the end there was a fireworks display set to John Phillips Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever." It was truely an inspiring moment.

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The Redhunter all decked out

Here I am, all decked out in a tux at the Hilton, getting ready for the Constitution Ball.

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The President and his Family

My job most of the night was to stand at one of the entrance doors and say "coat check to the right, ball room to the left" When I heard a roar downstairs I knew the President had arrived. I rushed downstairs and got this view of him and his family. What a thrill!

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The Vice President

The Vice President Originally uploaded by Tom the Redhunter.
The Vice-President and his wife at the podium at the Constitution Ball.

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January 18, 2005

At the Inaugural Ceremonies - prelude

Well, not yet. But I will be a volunteer at some of the Inaugural events. Over the weekend I went to two trainings in D.C. One of the benefits to living in the National Capital area is that you can do these things, so I decided to seize the opportunity and get involved. Although you don't get the full experience as a volunter, entry to events is free and I look at it as a contribution to the cause. As such, blogging will be light until Friday.

I'll be outside all day tomorrow (brrr) but indoors on Thursday (Inauguration Day). I'm bringing my (new) digital camera, so unless something goes awry will be posting pictures on Friday if not before. Stay tuned!

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Confirm Condoleezza

I don't have time to follow the details of Condolezza Rice's confirmation hearings, but a few things stand out that I have to comment on.

Just to see how things were progressing, I checked out the latest Fox News article on the confirmation hearings. As expected, I found something that ticks me off

Rice does have her critics in Congress. Some say she will only rubber-stamp President Bush's views, rather than represent the views of U.S. diplomats...
Huh? Do these critics not realize that the Secretary of State is the President's nominee, and not that of the bureaucrats in the State Department? Apparently some folks need a lesson on democracy, so here goes: We take a vote, elect a leader, and that leader gets to decide policy. In order to implement policy, he or she puts people in the various departments to carry it out. This is not to say that the leader should ignore careerists, for they do have valuable experience and skills. But the whole reason why I and millions of other Americans voted for President Bush is because we want things done in a certain way. I'm not interested in a Secretary of State who "represents the interests of diplomats", I want the Secretary to represent George W Bush's views.

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January 14, 2005

A Lack of Moral Clarity

Earlier this week I wrote about Moral Clarity as it relates to how we look at foreign policy questions. In his column yesterday Morton Kondracke gave us two perfect examples of a lack of moral clarity in regards to thinking on the Israeli-Palestinian problem.

First up is former General Brent Scowcroft, longtime Washington policy advisor. Kondracke says that in a November op-ed in the Washington Post, Scowcroft advised that the United States

"should insist that Israel stop construction of its wall on the West Bank" and not only to withdraw from Gaza, as it plans to do, but also to "evacuate" the West Bank.
Scowcroft argued that the security Israel currently derives from the fence it has built -- a barrier that has largely stopped suicide bombings in Israel proper -- should be replaced by international peacekeepers from Europe. It's an idea that Israel will never accept.
Note that nothing is demanded of the Palestinians. They need not reform their authoritarian government; much less take any measures to stop terrorism. Further, as Kondracke points out, Israel is simply not going to completely pull out of the West Bank. So Scowcroft is either not within the bounds of reality, in which case we can dismiss him entirely, or he would force Israel to take suicidal steps, in which case he sufferes from a severe lack of moral clarity.

Next is Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor in the Carter Administration.

Brzezinski puts the matter in even starker terms, declaring that, in the minds of the world's Muslims, the United States has joined Israel in a "war against Islam" and that the way out is to join Europe in pressing Israel for a peace deal with Palestinians and with Iran, whose nuclear program Israel deems a threat to its existence.
There is a certain point where no matter what you do people will believe what they are going to believe. We have fought perhaps the most politically correct war in history, going out of our way on numerous occasions to say that we are not at war with Islam but with "terror" (yes I know, you can't be a war with a tactic, and the war is really against radical Islam, but that's a subject for another day). Perhaps we could do better at getting or message out, or doing this or that better. Those are legitimate subjects. But we are at the point were we must press on no matter what some other people think.
Bush's "global war on terror," Brzezinski said at the luncheon, "lumps all terrorists together and all Islamic terrorists together. Wise strategy lies not in uniting your enemies, but dividing them." When I asked Brzezinski, who was Jimmy Carter's national security advisor, whether he meant that the United States should take a benign attitude toward anti-Israeli terrorists like Hamas, he said, "I don't mean that we shouldn't condemn terrorism," but "let's not universalize Islamic terrorism. ... Let's recognize there are varieties of Islamic terrorism."
Uh...what difference does that make? Murderers are murderers no matter what their excuse. Brzezinski, too, suffers from a lack of moral clarity when he says that we should "take a benign attitude" toward some terrorists. Kondracke demolishes this kind of thinking:
If "realism" in foreign policy means selling out an ally like Israel to curry favor with inconstant friends in Europe and the Arab world, it can't be good. In fact, it would send a message to militant Islam: "Aha, the leader of Western civilization has lost its nerve. Terrorism pays. We're on the march.
Predictably, both Scowcroft and Brzezinski are pessimistic about what will happen in Iraq. They both want us to let Europe and the UN to take over management of Iraq. Neither seems to care much about what type of government the Iraqi people will live under. Neither seems to care as to whether they will live in freedom or tyranny.

Their mantra is "stablity uber alles". Their primary mistake is in equating Israel with the Palestinian Authority. To them everyone is just a piece on a chessboard. Not only do they not care much about the Israelis, they don't care about the Palestinian people either. If "strengthening Arafat" was what they told us during the '90s, we can be sure that democracy in a Palestinian state is not on their agenda either.

Thirty years ago the United States had an ally in South Vietnam. The latter was a flawed partner, but one that had potential for progress towards democracy. At the time South Korea and Taiwan were under the rule of authoritarian regimes, and today both are fairly stable democracies. Natan Sharansky has argued that we must not underestimate the potential for democracy anywhere, even in the most "unlikely" places. I believe him to be correct.

We abandoned South Vietnam to the wolves, which devoured her quickly. The people of that country, however, did not go quietly. Tens of thousands attempted to flee, many on small, overcrowded boats into the open ocean. Thousands died, and some were rescued. They became known as the "boat people", and you may have met some of them but just not know it.

Will Scowcroft or Brzezinski be there to pick up Iraqi boat people if the nation collapses? Don't count on it.

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January 12, 2005

Homespun Blogger Symposium Question

The Homespun Blogger question of the week comes from CJ at The Unmentionables:

What, in your opinion, are the moral responsibilities of the individual citizen in the United States (or your own country) today and how do you believe people should act upon (or react to) those perceived responsibilities?

During one of the Democratic presidential primary debates some years ago, the candidates were fielding questions from the audience. One of the people asked something like

What does the government owe people?
The nominees fell over themselves in assuring everyone that if elected would spend a ton of money because the government owes you so much. The questioner then had a follow up (and again I go from memory):
What do the recipients of this aid owe the government?
Stunned silence from the candidates. For the next few minutes they stuttered and stumbled and looked utterly foolish.

We live in an age in which many think that they have few, if any, responsibilities, and that we should look to the government for the answers. Our first moral responsibility is simply to be responsible for our actions. People need to take responsibility for their situation and work to improve or change without first thinking that the government has the obligation to help them We need to put an end to the ideology of victimhood. No doubt some people are genuinely in need and require our help. No serious person disputes this. But the issue is that there are too many who wallow in "victimhood" and there are professional hucksters who play off this.

Next, we must be law-abiding. "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is Gods" This sounds obvious, but it is all to easy to rationalize breaking the small laws. Driving over the speed limit, exaggerating on charitable donations for tax purposes, all these and a hundred more are the little temptations we deal with every day.

Following on this is the obligation in all we do to be a good example not only to our fellow citizens but to future generations as well. This includes everthing from the dictates of common courtesy to behaviour while driving.

We have an obligation to stay informed as to the issues of the day, and to vote our conscience. This does not mean you need to be a news hound like me (heaven forbid) but total ignorance is not acceptable either. Democracy needs an at least moderately informed populace.

Moral issues are at the heart of who we are as a people. The third Symposium question was on what we thought was the greatest long-term threat to our country. Many of the bloggers responded that moral issues were paramount. I agree that these issues are very important. As such, we have an obligation to lead moral lives.

Raising our children to be good citizens and good people is a moral obligation. I do not have any myself. However, I think it safe to say that parents have an obligation is to try. But that is just it; an obligation to try, not that you must succeed.

These are some of my thoughts on the matter. I'm sure that other Homespun Bloggers will have much of value to add on this matter.


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Just War Series - Competent Authority

This is Part 2 of my series on Just War Theory. The other parts covered thus far are:

Introduction
1. Just Cause

The next test that must be met in order for a war to be Just is that of Competent Authority. Only states with the legal authority to declare war may do so. Generally private armies and individuals may not engage in warfare.

There are several questions that we must ask in order to determine if this test has been met:

  1. Do individual countries have the right to declare war?
  2. Is the government of the country making the decision legitimate?
  3. Does the individual making the decision have the authority to do so?
  4. If nuclear war or a "decapitating strike" by terrorists is a possibility, can competent authority survive to make the required decision?
  5. If the country involved possesses nuclear weapons, has it taken steps to prevent their unauthorized use?
Let's go through these one at a time.

It is my contention that yes; individual countries have the right to unilaterally declare war. While some today say that all war must be authorized by the United Nations, I believe this to be invalid for a whole host of reasons, not the least of which is that Section VII, Article 51, of the UN charter allows for nations to defend themselves through use of war. That said, the rest of Section VII attempts to restrict individual nations in a manner that I find unacceptable. In order to prevent future attempts to tie our hands, we should demand a revision of the charter. If that fails, we should withdraw.

Sometimes non-state actors may declare war, although those times will be rare. The only time this may be justified is if a people are under the heal of a tyranny, and all peaceful means of attempting redress have been exhausted. For example, the American Colonies for many years appealed to King George III for redress before a decision was taken to declare independence and go to war. But note that we did not do this as a resistance shadowy group. We formed a nation (ok nations, each state being largely independent, but let's not get into that here).

Governments that do not draw their authority from their people are illegitimate and do not have the right to declare war. At the current state of human development, the best system we have so far is the popular election process invented by western civilization. There are several such systems, and all are equally valid as long as certain criteria are met that we do not have time to explore here. This is not to say that democracies can go to war against tyrannies for no good reason. All the other criteria of the Just War must be met. Likewise, injustices can be done to the citizens of the worst regimes, the best example being the Nazi invasion of Soviet Russia. Thus only democracies can legitimately declare war.

As for the third question, by this we mean, "can the chief executive declare war without regard to other government entities?" The answer to this depends on the individual country involved. Even in a democracy the chief executive (president, prime minister) is usually restricted in some manner.

In the United States, the Congress not only is granted the sole right to declare war, but holds the purse strings to funding the military as well. The President, however, is granted Commander-in-Chief status by the Constitution. This has sparked a debate within our country over the past two centuries over who exactly can order our troops into battle. The current thinking is that if the conflict is probably going to be short, then the president can make the decision himself and need only inform the congress. However, if the conflict will probably be long and or involve many casualties, authorization by the congress is required. These are, of course, subjective criteria, and can be debated by reasonable people. But they are reasonable criteria. I would like to see an outright declaration of war rather than the current "authorization" type vote. But at least we have moved away from "Gulf of Tonkin" type justifications and towards a more formal authorization.

One of the threats in our modern age is that of the "decapitating strike" that kills, incapacitates, or renders incommunicado the legitimate authority (or authorities). This may occur through either a nuclear strike by another country, or a terrorist attack from an organization such as al Qaeda. Either way, governments have a responsibility to avoid a situation in which no competent authority remains. This is a complicated problem that has many aspects to it. Some of them are:

  • After a strike in which the first few people in the chain of authority are killed or otherwise incapacitated, the person(s) who have the authority may not have the information they need to make an informed decision. They may be under pressure to "do something", which can lead to rash action.
  • Command and Control issues come into play. Important communications lines may be out of order after an attack. Especially in the case of nuclear war, this can lead to problems in keeping the war under control and avoiding unnecessary escalation.
While Command and Control are always important, they assume special importance with regard to Nuclear Weapons. Quite simply, if a state is going to possess them, it has a responsibility to go to great lengths to safeguard them. It is my contention that the United States must continue to possess a limited number of these weapons. I do not accept the argument that in order to dissuade others from obtaining them we should not have them. Among other things, this is the fallacy of moral equivalence.

Application to Current Events

The test is whether the United States has met the requirement of Competent Authority with regard to the War on Terror. In my opinion we have met the requirements.

Of the five parts of Competent Authority first listed, only 1 through 3 applies to the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Number 4 applies to the War on Terror in general, and the fifth is applicable at all times. Going through them in order:

  1. The United States has the authority to declare war without "getting permission" from any other entity such as the United Nations. I made clear my thoughts on this matter in a post here.
  2. Our government is legitimate. Period.
  3. President Bush did the right thing by going to congress, just as his father did in the run-up to the Gulf War. While I think that an outright declaration of war would have been best, an "authorization vote" is sufficient. In contrast to many conservatives, I think that the War Powers Resolution was a good idea.
  4. Whether we have acted to ensure a reasonable chance of survival of competent authorities is a technical question that I am not qualified to answer. My general impression is yes.
  5. This, too, is a technical question that I am not fully qualified to answer. However I do have more-than-average knowledge of the subject, so I would say yes to this as well. U.S. Air Force, Army, and Navy ship and carrier aircraft weapons are secured by Permissive Action Links (PAL) that physically prevent end-users from activating them. Missiles aboard Navy submarines do not have PALs. They rely instead on the cooperation of a significant fraction of the ships crew to launch the missiles (Note: the movie Crimson Tide, entertaining though it was, did not get the technical details right).

Next: Comparative Justice

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January 11, 2005

Defense Cuts?

Frank Gaffney has a disturbing editorial that appears in today's Washington Times. He mentions "reports" that the defense budget that President Bush is going to submit to Congress contains substantial cuts in spending. Four key areas of reduction are cited:

The Air Force will lose perhaps as many as 110 of the 270 of the F/A-22 fighter/attack aircraft it has intended to buy. These "Raptors" would permit the replacement of 30-year-old F-15s with stealthy planes capable of providing assured air superiority and support for ground forces, even against enemies with advanced anti-aircraft defenses.
The F-15 dates to the early 1970s and is past middle age. Our enemies are not sitting still, but are purchasing advanced Russian fighters. The last time we fought an air war against an enemy who could do us serious harm was the Vietnam War. We discovered that our F-4 was only an even match for the MiG-21, and could easily get into trouble against the "older and obsolete" MiG-17. We barely held a two or three to one advantage during the first phase of the air war. It was only after developing realistic training (Red Flag and Top Gun) that we were able to perform at what we considered an acceptable rate. Let's not go through that again.
According to press reports, the Marines would be obliged to cut some $1.5 billion from their budget for the revolutionary V-22 "Osprey" tilt-rotor aircraft. This would involve delaying or reducing procurement of the mainstay of the Corps' future combat capabilities, with potentially profound repercussions.
Helicopter technology is reaching the point of diminishing returns. The existing birds are reaching old age. We have been experimenting with tilt-rotar technology since the 1950's. Yes there will be crashes and accidents; sadly, there always will be. Yes the V-22 is expensive, all new aircraft are. But if we are to outperform our enemies and maintain our advantage in quick, mobile war, we need this aircraft.
The Navy will lose one of its 12 aircraft carriers, while its shipbuilding program will be kept at a level that will reduce the service to fewer than 270 ships — a number clearly inadequate to meet the nation's worldwide missions. Particularly worrisome are the severe cuts envisioned in the needed modernization of the submarine fleet — arguably the most valuable and certainly among the most flexible of sea-going platforms, given their important roles in sea control and intelligence operations.
As I recall, only about one-third are typically at sea at one time. One is always undergoing a major update, or SLEP (Service Life Extension Program) as it is called, which puts it in drydock for a year or more. We might not always have access to land bases when and where we need them during an emergency. Recall that during the Afghan campaign the Navy carried out most of the tactical strikes. Check the Navy website; we've only got one being built at this moment, and the two oldest carriers are over forty years old.

As for submarines, the current Los Angeles class of attack boats (non-nuclear missile boats whose mission is to sink ships and other subs) is ageing. The proposed Seawolf class was too expensive and was cancelled after only three boats. We need to maintain constant production of the new Virginia class in order to have enough on hand to meet any threat. And lest anyone think that the days of high-seas naval battles are over for us, I'd say that there is a better than 50/50 chance that we'll go to war with China before the decade is out (see post here).

Nowhere is it likelier that John Kerry would have cut back Pentagon spending than in the portfolio of the Missile Defense Agency. Yet, here too, President Bush is said to be considering $5 billion in reductions over the next five years. These could essentially eliminate the most promising means of performing boost-phase missile intercepts (namely, using an airborne laser and/or from space); preclude building out the initial, very modest deployment of ground-based interceptors; and sharply curtail sea-based anti-missile defenses.
You don't have to be a political analyist to know that North Korea may take a shot at us some day. Not to mention China. Or Iran.

Assuming Mr. Gaffney is correct, and the cuts are in the offing, we all know the "why" and it is Iraq. I do believe that what we are doing there is right, and that if anything we need to spend more money there for troops and rebuilding infrastructure. But we can't starve the rest of the military. It is hard to imagine that in a federal budget of nearly 2 trillion dollars we can't find somewhere we might find the money.

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Is Democracy Possible Among Muslims?

Check out my latest post over at Conserva-Puppies, and join the discussion.

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January 10, 2005

Just War Series - Just Cause

This is the first in a series on Just War Theory. The topic was first introduced in this post.

Just Cause
is the first requirement that must be met if a nation is to meet the test of whether a war is just. "The cause is the ultimate end for which the war is fought." (All quotes are from A Fighting Chance)

Martino makes three points that must be used in determining Just Cause.

  1. War must be limited to self-defense. This includes collective self-defense, such as coming to the aid of an ally.
  2. "Just Cause is limited to shielding against or preventing the violation of rights, and to reestablishing preexisting rights that have been violated. " In other words, if another country did something that has taken away some or one of our rights, we are justified in going to war to regain that right(s). In addition, we are justified in going to war to prevent recurrences of violations. War is only an option, however, if the danger is "real and certain." We are not just talking about the rights of nations. Individuals have rights, too (individual rights are primary, it may be argued). One may fight to secure and protect human rights.
  3. Retaliation for past wrongs is not allowed. Likewise, punishment for past violations of rights is not allowed if that violation has ceased and there is no reason to believe that it will recur in the future.
It is important to note that Martino framed his discussion in the context of the Cold War. As such,
  1. The use of nuclear weapons could destroy civilization as we knew it. One had to take into account the enormous amount of damage they could cause when contemplating a decision to go to war.
  2. The Soviet Union was a uniquely dangerous enemy. It had a history of mass murder that was unmatched by any regime in history, even Hitler's. Stalin alone murdered anywhere from 30 to 60 million, and communist governments worldwide over 100 million. One had to assume, therefore, that if the Soviets were able to take over our country or those of our allies mass murder would ensue. As Martino says, "we are talking about an enormous cost in lives even from unresisted Soviet conquest." Therefore, one must calculate how many people we would lose to new communist gulags versus the amount we would lose in a nuclear war. No one is reducing the decision to go to war to a mathematical calculation, rather it is simply a concept that we cannot ignore. Those who talk only of the destruction caused by nuclear weapons are missing half of the issue; the destruction caused by communist rule must be considered as well.
  3. Further, we are not just talking about deaths. Quality of life must be considered. Avoiding life as a slave is worth fighting for.
The Post Cold-War World

It is my contention that with only minimal adjustment, Martino's concepts apply to today's world. They can be used to justify both the War on Terror in general and the invasion of Iraq in particular.

War on Terror

The invasion of Afghanistan and our pursuit of al Qaeda meets the Just Cause test. We have every reason to believe that they are planning additional attacks after Sept 11 2001, and as such, we have a perfect right to go to war with them. The Taliban gave sanctuary to al Qaeda, and were complicit in their actions, having knowledge of their plans.

Iraq

The harder test is the invasion of Iraq. Many have argued that the situation in Iraq did not require war for several reasons, but mainly because Saddam Hussein and his regime were effectively contained by the sanctions and no fly zones.

The invasion can be debated by reasonable people, with honest and well-meaning people coming down on both sides. It is my contention that the war meets the Just Cause test.

  1. Self-Defense - Saddam would, if he could have, attacked Americans and our allies. That he did not do so was only a result of the sanctions and no-fly zones imposed after the Gulf War. Saddam never "came around" or changed his ways. Further, the sanctions were falling apart. Russia and France had, several times, proposed that they be weakened. As Senator John McCain (in one of the rare times in which I agree with him) said at the Republican National Convention, "there was no stable status quo". The no-fly zones would likely be weakened over time. Once free of constraints, few would contend that Saddam would not have started up his WMD programs again. Given his propensity toward invading his neighbors, there is little reason to believe that he (or his sons when they assumed control after his death) would not repeat his aggressive behavior. Most importantly, we had every reason to believe that he possessed stocks of WMD, and would use them if he could. Lastly, the United States has allies in the region, not the least of which is Israel. Saddam fired Scud missiles at Israel during the Gulf War, and there was every reason to believe that he would do so again. Thus, we were acting to defend our allies.
  2. Reassertion of Rights -Immediately after the Gulf War, Saddam complied with the Security Council resolutions that, among other things, required him to destroy his WMD. But as time went on, and the threat of actual invasion by the US and UK (which he very much feared in March and April of 1001) receded, he grew more and more bold. One step at a time he threw roadblocks in front of the inspectors. Never enough to precipitate war, he moved slowly. But by the late '90s cooperation ceased completely and the UN was forced to withdraw its inspectors. Not until President Bush reasserted our rights was the issue brought to the forefront again. But again Saddam did not comply with the UN Security Council (resolution 1441). Lastly, the war was fought to secure the rights of individual Iraqis as well. That Saddam's Ba'athist regime violated basic human rights hardly needs elaboration.
  3. Retaliation - The war was not about retaliation. While some on the left rant about President Bush finishing "daddy's war", we need not take such talk seriously.
  4. I do not want to rehash the entire justification for the war in Iraq here. Interested readers can visit my post in which I list 16 reasons why I believe the war to be justified.
There are those would argue that whether or not Saddam "would have if he could have" is not a legitimate argument. They say that while we need not wait until after an attack has been made to respond, we should have waited at least until Saddam had truly shown that he was going to perpetrate an attack or atrocity.

Such an argument is not totally without merit. But it is one that I do not believe holds up in this situation, for reasons stated above.

Next up: Competent Authority


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January 8, 2005

Staples - Sinclair - Media Matters Conclusion

The affair seems to have reached a conclusion. Pretty much, anyway. I won't blog anymore on it unless something big develops.

Bottom line; don't boycott Staples.

Staples is apparently standing by their last press release, issued Thursday, in which they say that "Staples does not have a policy against advertising on Sinclair Broadcast Group" and that they have been "misrepresented by an organization with no affiliation to Staples."

Amy Ridenour
, who was investigated this story closely, doubts that Staples has a political agenda.

Media Matters seems to be standing by their position also, namely that "1) Staples won't be advertising on local news programming on Sinclair stations as of January 10, 2005; and 2) that decision was based in part on the activism generated by SinclairAction.com."

Sinclair Action is still posting their January 4 press release in which they say that

Media Matters for America today announced that Staples, Inc. will no longer advertise on local news programming on Sinclair Broadcast Group TV stations nationwide. Citing an effort to be responsive to customer concerns about Sinclair's injection of partisan conservative politics into its nightly newscasts, Staples, Inc. attributed its decision in part to the response the company received from customers visiting the SinclairAction.com website.

They also claim that "Staples officials reviewed, edited, and approved the Media Matters press release of January 4 2005." No names are mentioned, however.
Sinclair Broadcast Group weights in with their own press release on the matter:

BALTIMORE (January 7, 2005) - Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. (Nasdaq:
SBGI) is pleased to note that in a press release issued on January 6, 2005

and as posted on their website (www.staples.com), office supply retailer
Staples, Inc. states that it intends to continue to advertise on Sinclair
television stations and has no policy against advertising in Sinclair news
programming. The Staples' statement also notes that political agendas do
not drive its media buying decisions and that its media buying process with
Sinclair "has recently been misrepresented by an organization with no
affiliation to Staples.

Read the whole thing.
P.S. The President and CEO of Media Matters for America is none other than David Brock. Brock was the darling of conservatives after he wrote "The Real Anita Hill" in 1993. Within a few years, however, he changed his mind and become a liberal/leftist.

P.P.S. I'll start my Just War Theory series Monday. Stay tuned.

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January 7, 2005

Staples says facts are Misrepresented by Media Matters

This is an update to my post yesterday on the Staples - Sinclair - Media Matters affair.

Staples denies that they ever pulled advertising from Sinclair Broadcasting. Here's their press release:

Statement about Staples media buying and Sinclair Broadcast Group

FRAMINGHAM, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Jan. 6, 2005--To clarify that Staples does not have a policy against advertising on Sinclair Broadcast Group news, Staples has the following statement:

Our media buying process with Sinclair Broadcast Group stations has recently been misrepresented by an organization with no affiliation to Staples. Staples regularly drops and adds specific programs from our media buying schedule, as we evaluate and adjust how to best reach our customers. We do not let political agendas drive our media buying decisions.

Staples does not support any political party. We advertise with a variety of media outlets, but do not necessarily share the same views of these organizations or what they report. As we have done for a number of years, Staples will continue to advertise on Sinclair Broadcast Group stations.


Amy Ridenour has been following this closely on her blog at the National Center for Public Policy Research. She reports on a phone conversation that the had with Staples spokesman Paul Capelli
Capelli, however, told The National Center that Staples stopped advertising on Sinclair news on January 10 because a previously scheduled ad campaign targeted to the Christmas season had ended. A new ad campaign, consisting of a different combination of ad buys, on a "back to work" theme had previously been scheduled to replace the ad campaign utilizing Sinclair news.
As of this writing, Sinclair Broadcasting Group has issued no press releases about the matter.

Unfortunately, Media Matters has not updated their site either, as of this writing still claiming that Staples has stopped advertising on Sinclair.

Be sure to check out Amy Ridenour's take on the matter at the bottom of her post here.

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January 6, 2005

Just War Theory - Introduction

Over the next few weeks I am going to intersperse normal posts with a series on Just War Theory.

Just War Theory is the idea that war can be justifiable as long as certain conditions are met. The theory covers both the decision to go to war, and conduct in war. Catholic theologians and philosophers develped it over the ages.

As a guide I will be using A Fighting Chance: The Moral Use of Nuclear Weapons, by Joseph Martino, published in 1988. The book is, sadly, out of print, although Amazon has a few copies left which can be had for a pittance.

The book is one of those books one happens across at the bookstore, or sees advertised by your book club, and is purchased on a whim. Most of us have one or two of these gems in our library, a book that you consider exceptionally well written, but that for some reason or other didn't do so well in sales. This book is one of them. I consider it so well reasoned that I've read it several times.

Years ago I had a brief email correspondence with the author. I happened upon an interview with him somewhere on the Internet, and his email address was listed at the bottom of the piece. Unfortunately the emails are long since lost, the victims of numerous changes of computer platforms.

Just War theory is divided into two parts; jus ad bellum, which concerns the decision to go to war, and jus ad bello, which concerns conduct in war.

For jus ad bellum, the conditions that must be met in order for the war to be just are:

  • Just Cause - The side going to war must have sufficiently strong reason for doing so.
  • Competent Authority - War can only be declared by those with the legal authority to do so.
  • Comparative Justice - The war may be justified if the party initiating it is more in the right than the other party. Note that absolute perfection is not required.
  • Right Intention - "The intention of those attempting to wage war justly must be to achieve only their legitimate objectives, not to go beyond them even in victory.
  • Last Resort - All reasonable alternatives must have been exhausted.
  • Probability of Success - This does not mean that victory must be certain, rather that there is a reasonable probability of success.
  • Proportionality - "The damage to be inflicted on the enemy must not be out of proportion to the good expected in taking up arms"

For jus ad bello, the criteria are
  • Discrimination - Reasonable care must be taken to protect the lives of the innocent. Strikes must be made only against legitimate military targets.
  • Proportionality - "In each individual military action, the damage to be done and the costs to be incurred must be justified by the military gain expected from the action."
I will be blogging on each of these in some detail in upcoming weeks.


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Staples Plays Politics in Advertising

The Washington Post reported yesterday that office-supply retail corporation Staples Inc is pulling all advertising from Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc.

Office-supply retailer Staples Inc. is pulling its advertising from news programming on Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. television stations, saying the decision was fueled in part by e-mails from customers angry at what they consider to be the broadcaster's right-wing bias in news and commentary.
Yeah, well I'm angry too: Angry that Staples would cave so easily to a left-wing email campaign. Guess what, Staples? You lost my business. Just like Target lost my business for refusing to allow Salvation Army bell ringers to collect money outside of their stores before Christmas.

Sinclair, as you will recall, aired "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal," a film that was critical of John Kerry's Vietnam service.

The left-wing group behind all this is Media Matters, has even set up a special website www.sinclairaction.org in which they will encourage other companies to boycott Sinclair.

Ok, fair enough. It's a free country and if a group wants to put pressure on a company, that's ok. It's also fine for a company to pull advertising from a media source.

But let's take a look at the accusations against Sinclair. Sinclair Action posts this

In a press release, The National Center for Public Policy Research President Amy Ridenour has some questions for Staples:

we have launched a campaign to protest Sinclair Broadcast Group's continued misuse of public airwaves to air one-sided politically charged programming without a counterpoint.
Without a counterpoint! Dan Rather always provided a counterpoint, right?
The campaign aims to spur action against Sinclair's use of the 62 television stations it owns or operates to systematically promote partisan political interests. Of particular concern is a nightly "news and commentary" segment titled "The Point", in which Sinclair vice president Mark Hyman consistently attacks progressives and prominent Democrats and ardently supports President Bush and conservative policies.
Well that's just terrible, isn't it?

Sinclair Action features Moveon.org prominently on their website. 'nuf said?

Amy Ridenour, President of The National Center for Public Policy Research, has some questions for Staples:

"If Staples wants to avoid supporting political media, it should start by boycotting CBS," said National Center President Amy Ridenour. "Sinclair may irritate some on the left by being openly pro-American, but, unlike CBS, it didn't team up with forgers in an attempt to play dirty politics on the eve of the last presidential race."
On her blog posting, she says that they have contacted Staples to get their side of the story, but as of this writing have received no response. They, too, are ending purchases from Staples.

I checked the Staples website, and as of this writing can find no press releases on the issue.

What really irks me about all this is how cravenly Staples seems to have capitulated to this pressure campaign. Granted their first responsibility is to their stockholders. No doubt, therefore, the executives at Staples were looking to avoid financial loss. But they have miscalculated. This is a game that two can play, and conservatives can shop at office supply retailers other than Staples.

Update

Staples denies that they have pulled advertising from Sinclair. They say that Media Matters misrepresented the situation. Looks like Staples may be the victim here. See new post above for details

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January 5, 2005

Moral Clarity

I started reading Natan Schransky's new book The Case for Democracy recently, and I'm already struck by something he said in the preface. Sharansky is talking about moral clarity, and why it is important as a reference point in order to create a better world:

But today, detached from the concept of a free society, human rights have no reference point. The concept of human rights has come to mean sympathy for the poor, the weak, and the suffering. To be sure, this sympathy is essential if we want to live in moral societies and should be encouraged and cultivated by families, faiths, schools, and governments. yet without moral clarity, sympathy can also be placed in the service of evil.

A world without moral clarity, is a world in which dictators speak about human rights even as they kill thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions, and even tens of millions of people. It is a world in which the only democracy in the Middle East is perceived as the greatest violator of human rightrs inthe world. It is a world in which a human rights conference against racism, such as the one that took place in Durban, South Africa a few years ago, can be turned iinto a carnival of hate.

Amen.

No democracy in Cuba? But they have free healthcare! Che Guevara was a murderer? But he cared about the poor! Palestinian terrorists kill thousands of innocent civilians? But the Israelis build a wall and Palestinian workers are inconvenienced!

It is not only left-wing ideologues like Noam Chomksy who make these arguments, as even Washington Post columnist William Raspberry crossed that line the other day.

Are the United States and Israel perfect? Of course not. But it is moral idiocy when Ted Kennedy compares Saddam's torture chambers to Abu Ghraib. It is moral idiocy when those on the far left accuse us of "mass murder" every time a civilian is killed. And it is moral idiocy when they equate Bush with Hitler. But there are lots of moral idiots out there; just read some of the left-wing blogs.

Bill Bennett spoke a lot about this in his book Why We Fight: Moral Clarity and the War on Terrorism. He saw clearly the result when moral clarity was abandoned:

“You should never be violent”

…teaching children this lesson does an unforgivable injury both to them and to the adult community of which they are about to become a part. It renders them vulnerable to abuse and injury, and leaves them without moral or intellectual recourse when abuse and injury are inflicted upon them. If no distinction is made between kinds of “peace,” children are deprived of the tools they require to distinguish a just from an unjust peace, peace with honor from the peace of the grave. They are robbed of the oldest and most necessary wisdom of the race, which is that some things are worth fighting and dying for.

Are we to tell our children that, because “you should always find a peaceful way to solve your problems,” the brave men who fought in the revolutionary War, the Civil War, the two World Wars, and every other conflict in history were acting immorally? That way lies a generation prepared only for accommodation, appeasement, and surrender.

Most leftists, unless they are completely in outer space, will concede that sometimes war and violence are necessary. But they then set such strict conditions as to reveal that they live in a fantasy land.

In a future post I will discuss Just War theory. Moral clarity is required in order to discuss what constitutes a Just War, and Sharansky and Bennet set the stage perfectly.

(P.S. if you want a good laugh, read some of the lefties who try to attack these two books in the Amazon.com reviews section. Their venom is a testament to the effectiveness of Sharansky and Bennett)

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All About the Elections

Everything you ever wanted to know about the upcoming Iraqi elections can be found here on the MEMRI website. (Thank you to Flopping Aces for the link)

The conclusion of the author of the report:

All indications are that the elections will be held as scheduled on January 30 and that there will be heavy participation by many segments of the Iraqi population. However, the elections are not a magic wand that will solve the country's burning security issues and they will not necessarily lead quickly to democratic and stable government. A balanced view of the elections must consider some of the risks involved:

  • Attacks on even a few polling stations on polling day may deter many Iraqis from voting.
  • An abstention of the majority of the Sunni population from voting may create, under the proportional representation system, a lopsided Shi'a majority in the National Assembly which could call into question the legitimacy of the results.
  • The leading list sponsored by Ayatollah al-Sistani heavily represents Shi'ite parties with strong connections to Iran. It is yet to be determined whether these parties, once they gain the majority in the National Assembly, will follow an independent nationalist course or will fall prey to Iranian ambitions and schemes for Iraq.
  • It is too soon to discount the possibility that the Kurds may boycott the elections if their demands to declare Kirkuk as a Kurdish city do not materialize.
  • There are approximately 26 candidates for every seat in the national assembly. One will be elected but 25 will be left out. Likely claims of fraud could undermine the results of the elections.
  • The vast majority of the Iraqi people have never participated in free and competitive elections. It has yet to be established whether the average Iraqi voter has the political maturity to exercise his/her right to vote in a responsible manner.
The ties to Iran are disturbing but not surprising. Jane links to an article that surmises that the election of Iraqi Shi'ite's might have a moderating influence on Iran. I think this is overly optimistic, but it is plausible.

Holding the elections is certainly risky, but a calculated one. Bottom line is that we have no choice but to proceed, and to understand that we are in this for the long haul.


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January 4, 2005

Keeping our Nerve

Once again we are seeing calls to delay the elections in Iraq. I wrote about this last month and came to the conclusion that they needed to go ahead as scheduled. The risks of proceeding, I decided, were outweighed by the risks of delaying them.

A story on Fox News today reports that calls to delay them have not abated

More Iraqi interim government officials are calling for the postponement of Jan. 30 elections to ensure a higher Sunni voter turnout, a sign that a campaign of violence might be taking its toll on Iraqi resolve. The country's electoral commission, however, insists that voting take place as scheduled.
Tellingly it is Sunni's who are calling for a boycott. Indeed, the largest Sunni party said that they will not participate, due to security concerns. The Iraqi election commission is determined that elections go ahead as scheduled.

We should be wary of taking everything we hear from those who suggest delay at face value. Most of the terrorism is coming from the "Sunni Triangle", and is committed by Sunnis. Many of the Sunni political parties undoubtably have ties or at least open lines of communications with the terrorist insurgents. It is inconceiveable that they are perfectly innocent politicians. More likely they are in the mold of Sein Fein and the IRA.

One therefore suspects that these Sunni political parties could put a serious dent in the terrorism if they really wanted to. More likely, like Sein Fein, they know that in a true "one-man, one-vote" democracy, they will not enjoy the control of Iraq that they did under Saddam.

Powerline blog reported last month on a poll in which 80% of Iraqis did not want to delay the elections. Anyone who things we have problems now should try and imagine the anger of millions of Iraqis at a delay. Remember; things can always get worse.

Victor Davis Hanson reminded us in November of how things will look in the future if we do not loose our nerve at this critical juncture;

There may well be even more terrible things to come in Iraq than what we have seen already, but there will also be far better things than were there before. And there will come a time, when all those who slandered the efforts — the Germans, the French, the American radical Left, the vicious Michael "Minutemen" Moore, the pampered and coddled Hollywood elite, the Arab League, and the U.N. will assume that Iraq is a "good thing" like Afghanistan, and that democracy there really was preferable — after they had so bravely weighed in with their requisite "ifs" and "buts" — to the mass murders of Saddam Hussein. Yes, they will say all this, but it will be for the rest of us to remember how it all came about and what those forgotten soldiers and people of Iraq went through to get it — lest we forget, lest we forget....
The biggest risk, of course, in proceeding with elections as scheduled is that it may lead to civil war. But on balance it would seem that the Sunnis will realize, that with their minority status, their best option for power is with the new government. The elections should proceed.

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January 3, 2005

Unholy Alliance

Viewed from a logical perspective, one would think that the left in Europe and the US would view radical Islam as it's greatest enemy. After all, the latter is violently opposed to the "progressive" program that the former espouses. Further, one would imagine that the left would at least be happy that the Taliban have been overthrown in Afghanistan and with progress being made towards a better way of life for the people of that country.

However, as we've known for some time, this view would be mistaken. It would be one thing if the left were simply opposed to the war in Iraq, or expoused the view that "all war is bad" or something like that. It would even be one thing if they ranted on with their wild theories about how the threat from terrorism has been exaggerated by the dastardly "neocons".

But as David Horowitz has amply documented in Unholy Alliance, Radical Islam and the American Left, there are those in our midst who identify with the Islamofacsists to the point of working to betray our nation. Horowitz is one to know the Left better than most, as he was one of their leading figures until the late '70s/early '80s.

Horowitz answers the question as to why the left denounces our efforts in the War on Terror with such venom. First, he says, we must understand how they view the United States. The ideology of the left is really that of nihilism. He quotes Karl Marx

Not only is the radical revolution not about the reform of a socual reality, and therefore it's preservation, it is the opposite. It is about the total destruction of one: "By force of the overall definition, in the present society all laws are unjust, all consciousness is false, all relations must be corrupt, all institutions appear oppressive." In Marx's chilling phrase in The Eighteenth Brumaire, "Everything that exists deserves to perish."
It therefore follows that to the left "Because America is an unjust society, all its wars are unjust by virtue of that fact alone." No further evidence is needed. One need not search far on the Internet to find blogs and articles that espouse these views.

Horowitz documents this sort of thinking himself by quoting and analyzing the writings of the important leftists intellectuals of today; Eric Hobsvawm, Gerda Lerner, Noam Chomsky, Maurice Zeitlin, Todd Gitlin, Howard Zinn, Norman Mailer, and many others.

Horowitz lists the standard Islamic inditements against the west. He then asks

These inditements are easily embraced by the Western leftists. Less comprehensible is their support from the Islamic movements themselves, which represent so many values seemingly antithetic to their progressive creeds. But as previously noted, the history of the Western oleft shows that these are not the insurmountable obstacles they may seem. Radicalism is a cause whose utopian agendas result in an ethic where the ends outweigh and ultimately justify any means. Like the salvationist agendas of jihad, the Left's apocalyptic goal of "social justice" is the equivalent of an earthly redemption. A planet saved, a world without poverty, racism, inequality, war - what means would not be justified to achieve such millennial ends? By way of contrast, less ambitious reform movements are able to weigh gains against probable costs, and avoid the kind of excesses and atrocities endemic to radical causes.
This is the kind of thinking that prompted the Russian communist revolutionaries to assassinate Petr Stolypin, the somewhat reforminst minister to Tsar Nicholas II.

We have a Fifth Column in our midst, and Horowitz has provided excellent documentation for anyone who wants proof.

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Protecting Their Turf

The aid debacle arising from the tsunami that devastated much of south-west Asia illustrates the problem with existing international institutions such as the United Nations. It has been said by many on the right that while the United Nations is worthless if not harmful from a security perspective, elements of it should be kept around so as to help in humanitarian projects. But what we are now learning calls even this into question.

It is now apparent that the main objective of the UN during diasaster relief efforts is to protect their own turf. The main objective is for the UN to get all of the credit for whatever arrives on the scene. The ad hoc coalition led by the United States, and also consisting of Japan, Australia, and India, is said to undermine the UN because "it is the only body that has the moral authority."

Wretchard documents the UN's desparate efforts. But you already know by now that his is a "must read" blog. From Wretchard's Belmont Club I've discovered a new blog, Diplomad, that is written anonymously by career foreign service professionals at the State Department (at least, that's what they claim. I'll let readers judge for themselves, but I'll take Wretchard's cue on trusting them)

Diplomad has documented the pitiful attempts by the UN to provide relief. It is already day 9 of the crisis, and the writer of today's post, who is on the scene (though I'm not sure exactly where), reports that

...in this part of the tsunami-wrecked Far Abroad, the UN is still nowhere to be seen where it counts, i.e., feeding and helping victims. The relief effort continues to be a US-Australia effort, with Singapore now in and coordinating closely with the US and Australia. Other countries are also signing up to be part of the US-Australia effort. Nobody wants to be "coordinated" by the UN. The local UN reps are getting desperate. They're calling for yet another meeting this afternoon; they've flown in more UN big shots to lecture us all on "coordination" and the need to work together, i.e., let the UN take credit. With Kofi about to arrive for a big conference, the UNocrats are scrambling to show something, anything as a UN accomplishment. Don't be surprised if they claim that the USS Abraham Lincoln is under UN control and that President Lincoln was a strong supporter of the UN.
It would be laughable if it wasn't so tragic.

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